Review: Jay Park Showcases Artistic and Creative Growth on ‘Evolution’ Album

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Founder & Editor-in-chief

 

Jay Park is one of K-pop’s more unique characters. By this point, everyone knows his story of how he began as an idol, left, and came back as the anti-idol. With his newest album release, titled Evolution, Jay Park gives us a real look at the transformation that he’s made as an artist since his idol days.

 

1. Evolution feat. Gray

“Evolution” is a chill hip-hop/R&B intro song with a catchy hook and a smooth yet dynamic flow from Jay Park. Because Jay Park’s most recent single releases have been relatively happy-go-lucky pop songs, “Evolution” seems to serve as a reminder that Jay Park is not just a pop star and that he still raps. With a twinkling electric piano leading the track over a very natural sounding drum kit, the song is a gentle introduction to the album.

 

2. Joah

“Joah” is a feel-good song all the way. With a soft sax leading the hook and a natural instrumentation (drum kit, piano, horn section), the song has a very tender, happy feel to it. The song effortlessly straddles the pop and R&B genres, and it’s a perfect niche for Jay Park to settle himself into. As an artist, Jay Park has many different facets (as we will see throughout this review), but personally, pop/R&B Jay Park is my favorite Jay Park. Something about “Joah” just seems very natural and organic; like it’s the type of music that Jay Park is supposed to be doing.

 

3. So Good feat. Common Ground

The good feels just keep on coming with “So Good” up next. The track is your back-to-school jam for the Fall 2014 semester. There’s very clearly a heavy MJ influence with this track – everything about it screams Michael Jackson; from the keyboard, bass line, and drum beat, to the harmonies, the melody line, and Jay Park’s rhythmic adlibs and high-pitched “ooh”s.  This track is by far my favorite on the album. “So Good” is to the Evolution album what “Love On Top” is to Beyonce’s 4 album; no matter how terrible your day is, if you listen to this song you will instantly feel better. “So Good” is an absolute standout track on the album, and it’s a phenomenal tribute to Michael Jackson.

 

4. 다시 만나줘 (Let’s Make Up)

If this album has a #TBT, it’s “Let’s Make Up.” With an ‘80s and ‘90s pop feeling, the track sounds like something Janet Jackson or New Kids on the Block would sing.  Actually, it’s strikingly similar to “Love Thing” by the Spice Girls, but with a more R&B feeling to it, which is obviously awesome. Furthermore, with its minor key, the song is a good transition from the happy-go-lucky “Joah” and “So Good,” into something slightly darker and more serious, calming down the album without bringing it to an abrupt halt.

 

5. 약속해 (The Promise)

“The Promise” is an old school R&B song that you dramatically snap your fingers and do overly dramatic body rolls to.  Jay uses that soft horn section again, which is really a great sound for him; he once again uses an acoustic instrumentation, and in fact the bass part is so subtle that it gives the entire song a softer, more gentle feel, which is probably the point considering the song is quite literally a promise that Jay Park will stick with his lover forever and ever no matter what. “The Promise” isn’t sexy, it’s romantic. It’s meant to put a smile on your face and make your heart swell in your chest, not get your juices flowing and your panties dropping. Up until this point Jay Park has done a really great job showing a more tender, joyous side of himself that isn’t quite as thug or hip-hop focused as a lot of his 2012 and 2013 material was, and I personally love it.

 

6. 비밀 (Secret)

“Secret” is where we get back to the Jay Park we’ve gotten used to over the past few years. This track is a baby-making R&B track all the way. It’s a bit less direct than the next rack, “Welcome,” is as far as lyrics go, but it definitely has that Chris Brown “Take You Down” feeling to it. Out of all the baby-making songs on this album, “Secret” is definitely my favorite, maybe just because it’s the least cheesy and least sex-focused track out of all of them. One thing that I must admit Jay Park does well, is that he places the romantic “Promise” right before a slew of sexy songs, which is, in an odd way, comforting to the listener. It’s almost as if Jay is establishing a sort of trust with the fans and the listeners before he gets down and dirty with them, and I have to admit, on some subconscious psychological level, I think it works.

 

7. Welcome

“Welcome” is where we move into full baby-making mode. With lyrics like “welcome to my bed girl,” and “Baby I don’t lack, I’ll fill you up tightly,” this song is one thousand percent about sex. Personally, it’s a little too cheesy for me, but then again, so are most slow jam songs like this. I can see why many would like this song (especially with the shirtless music video and whatnot), but I personally just can’t really get into it, mainly because if I walked into a dude’s apartment and he said, “Girl, welcome to my bed,” I would probably laugh and then walk right back out the door.

 

8. 올라타 (Ride Me)

And the cheesy baby-making music continues with “Ride Me.” Again, I get the appeal of this kind of song to others, and this is the appeal of Jay Park – for the first few songs of the album, he is the happy, romantic, boy-next-door that we’re used to with most other K-pop idols. But what other idols have that Jay Park lacks, is an entertainment company censoring him. Jay Park is allowed to get grimy on his albums because he makes the rules. He can directly feed your fantasy – you don’t have to imagine him shirtless in bed like you do with all of your other celebrity crushes, because he’ll go ahead and write a song about sex and then shoot the music video shirtless in bed. These sexy tracks are here to remind you that Jay Park isn’t an idol anymore, and that he’s not afraid of getting down and dirty if he wants to.

 

9. 메트로놈 feat. Simon Dominic & Gray

I’m glad that Gray and Simon Dominic are on this track, because otherwise it would be kind of a mediocre track for me. It’s a pretty formulaic R&B song, but Simon D’s rap really adds a lot of texture to it that makes the song far more interesting and fun to listen to than it would have been without him. Gray’s deeper voice also does a good job complimenting Jay Park’s higher vocals, and brings the overall tone of the song down a bit.

 

10. GGG

My first thought when I listened to this song was, “…oh hell yeah.” The track and beat on “GGG” are both so awesome that I think this might be my favorite Jay Park rap song of all time. I honestly thought that this might be a sample from Girls’ Generation’s “Gee,” but as it turns out, “GGG” stands for “Get it? Got it. Good.” Which is even better. “GGG” is a welcome transition out of the whole cheesy R&B baby-making sound, and does a good job moving the album into something a little more serious. I have always liked the “Joah” and “So Good” Jay Park more than Jay Park the rapper, but this song almost changes my mind. This song borders on a G-Dragon “One of a Kind” feeling without going full GD. The song has the same sort of arrogance that a GD rap has, but the track is mellow enough that it’s confident without being totally cocky.

 

11. Who the F*ck is U feat. B-Free & Take One

This track is where Jay Park moves into the really heavy rap. “Who the F*ck is U” sounds very much like a B-side track from a Lil Wayne album or a Waka Flocka track. The song is a straight-up dis track towards idols; with lines like “You can say I don’t know hip-hop but I can’t stand the girly shit you’re doing,” “You and your CEO manipulating charts have killed Korean music,” and “K-pop is like a crazy zoo and your CEO is your zookeeper,” Jay Park is throwing some serious shade at K-pop idols and Korean entertainment companies with this song. While the song itself isn’t my style, it is certainly entertaining to hear a former idol trashing the system that he was once a prisoner of. You go Jay Park. You go.

 

12. 사실이야 (1HUNNIT) Remix feat. Loco & Swings

“1HUNNIT” gives the listener a small break between the intense rap style of “Who the F*ck Is U” and “Success Crazed,” but barely. Again, this sort of heavy rap isn’t really my favorite and it never has been, but I have to admit that Jay Park’s flow is pretty on point. He does a good job keeping up with Swings and Loco, who have been studying and practicing rap since long before Jay Park began his foray into the genre. If anything, for me, “1HUNNIT” proves that Jay Park has been doing his homework; it shows that he listens to and is inspired by this particular genre of music, and that he has put in the work to perfect the craft.

 

13. 미친놈 (Success Crazed) feat. Loco, Simon Dominic, & Trinidad James

This is the third heavy rap track in a row, and while I appreciate the fact that Jay Park is doing the music that he wants to do, this song is a far cry from the first half of the album. If Jay Park didn’t have such a distinct, identifiable voice I wouldn’t even think that “Success Crazed” was by the same artist as “The Promise” and “Joah.” The song is yet another dis rap towards idols and the Korean entertainment system, and at this point it’s kind of like, okay Jay Park, we get it. By now it kind of feels like there are two totally different Jay Parks in existence: hard core rap Jay Park and sweet R&B/pop Jay Park, and while it’s great that he has such a versatile portfolio of songs, a little more consistency on this album would be welcome.

 

14. I Like 2 Party

This is probably the most American-pop sounding song on the album. This is exactly the kind of song that you would get sick of hearing because it’s so overplayed on the radio, and exactly the kind of song that Pitbull would feature on or that Chris Brown would sing (or both). In fact, Jay Park’s “yeah, yeah, yeah” line sounds incredibly similar to the main chorus of Chris Brown’s smash hit “Yeahx3.” It’s definitely a catchy song that sticks in your ears, and while it’s not my favorite pop tune on the album, it’s a strong B-side track.

 

15. Hot + 16. Hot Remix

While “Hot” isn’t exactly the same sort of Waka Flocka style as the previous raps on the album, at this point I’m kind of exasperated by the noisy, in-your-face rap that has taken over this album. Again, I appreciate the diversity of the album, but it’s kind of exhausting to have so many hardcore rap songs in a row, despite the fact that “I Like 2 Party” sort of breaks them up in the middle. It’s almost even more exasperating because “I Like 2 Party” indicates the end of the whole hardcore rap thing that’s going on, but then “Hot” sucks you right back into it.

 

16. 나나(Nana) feat. Loco & AOMG

Now this is my kind of Jay Park rap. “Nana” is a perfect middle ground between R&B/pop Jay Park and hood rapper Jay Park. Personally, I think that this sort of hip-hop and R&B track is much more in line the sort of style that Jay Park projects in the first half of the album. It’s a great closer for the album as it takes things down a notch and lets the listener just sort of ride the album out to the end.

 

After 17 tracks, I am officially convinced that Evolution is actually the perfect name for this album. While I usually award points for consistent style, the very name of this album indicates that there will be little consistency, because the whole point of the album is to show Jay Park’s evolution as an artist. Despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of slow-jam R&B or heavy rap, I found myself bobbing my head along to every song on this album. Overall, this album is fire. Jay Park has come a long way since his “Abandoned” days and an even longer way since his 2PM days, and this album does a phenomenal job of showcasing that.

 

 

You can buy Jay Park’s new album, Evolution on iTunes now.

All visual and audio media courtesy of AOMG
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